In this article, learn how and why to document using photos and radiographs, what to do with the images and where to get help!
"It pays to take quality posture and hoof images on a regular basis and appropriate podiatry balance radiographs to help ensure optimum soundness!"
Beccy Smith - Author
We firmly believe that identifying early changes in hoof shape and therefore hoof proportions in combination with changes in resting posture and gait are key to prevention of most trauma, lameness and related premature death of horses in domestication.
Why documentation is important
By keeping documentation on your own horse or a clients horse you can discern relationships between what you can see or record in the hoof or body shape or the horses way of going for example, and changes in the horses environment. This helps you make better and quicker choices to support your horses well-being and and prevent lameness and trauma for occurring or escalating into pathology, lameness and early death!
Who should read this article?
This article is aimed at both horse owners/carers and equine professionals and is of particular relevance to hoof care professionals (abbreviated here to HCP’s and include farriers, equine podiatrists and trimmers), and horse carers/owners who better able to appreciate the impact of hoof care and changes in their horses hoof health and posture if accurate and consistent documentation is routinely taken. It is also of interest to vets who take a proactive approach to promoting soundness in their clients horses and which involves taking quality radiographs for assessing balance and monitoring interventions and treatment plans.
What should or can be documented
We encourage owners to keep a documentation history of their horse and this can include static photographs of hooves and the body of the horse, video footage and even radiographs. It might also include a diary or table with notes on the horses body condition score, weight tape, digital pulse or incidence of heat in the capsule, diet, temperament or management for instance. Don't forget to note all other changes such as weather, fields grazed, introduction of new herd members, changes in exercise, diet, medications or any other change your horse can be impacted by - even if you don't think it is relevant - it might be come apparent in the future! You can take as many videos and photos as you like - the more the merrier! The only limiting factor is the quality of the imaging!
When to document
We always take photos before and after any trim, dentistry, therapy or other intervention. This helps you track changes and monitor interventions so adjustments can be made early on.
How to document images of your horses hooves and posture
Proper preparation is key
To summarise, for photographic imaging, you will need:
A white board or suitable background
A scale marker
A prepared horse
A prepared area
A marker pen
Sufficient time and possibly a helper
Good lighting, and a dry, safe environment
For radiographic images you will also need:
An x-ray machine and person taking the radiographs (which in the UK is a vet)
Electricity supply, unless truly mobile equipment is used
Imaging blocks to raise the hoof for accurate imaging, such as Metron-Hoof blocks
A metal hoof wall marker on the dorsal wall, at the hairline
A scale marker for calibration such as Metron-Hoof blocks. The metal hoof wall marker can be used as a calibration tool if the length is known.
Documenting using photographic images
Firstly you need a quality camera - this can be a phone camera or ideally a purpose built camera. We use a 45mm zoom lens digital camera with flash and flip out monitor so we can safely and efficiently view what we are photographing with the camera on the ground. Distortion, shadows and blurry images inhibit proper assessment so it pays to invest in a decent camera if you are a serious owner or professional hoof carer. One suitable camera is the Panasonic lumix DMC-FZ300 as it is suitable for outdoor use, records video and has all the necessary features for documenting like a pro!
The hoof and limb needs to be clean and the surface the horses is standing on also needs to be clean and very level - a piece of hard board to stand the hoof on can help if you don't have a suitable yard surface. Avoid rubber matting or other conforming surface as they hoof will press into the surface and the images will be unusable - the ground surface area of the hoof needs to be visible and not buried in the ground.
Make sure the coronet band is visible - this can be trimmed or bandaged - to ensure proper evaluation of the coronet band. Ideally, make sure the pastern is also discernible for helping to identify the hoof-pastern axis.
Create a tidy space to prevent unnecessary distraction in the background when taking videos or documenting the posture, and ideally use a white board or plain cardboard behind the hoof on the ground when taking photos.
All hoof images should contain a scale marker which is an object in the "plane of interest" of a known height. This allows for more accurate documentation allowing for recording of lengths and changes in proportions. In the examples below, we use Metron Hoof scale blocks which are used in Eponamind imaging software.
I like to identify each hoof with a marker pen on the medial toe outer wall and sole prior to taking images (LF = left fore, LH = left hind, etc.) This makes it easier and quicker to identify the hooves when sorting, and reviewing images. My favorite pen is the milwaukee inkzall fine tip marker for writing on or marking up/mapping hooves.
Before you begin taking photos, you need to ensure your own health and safety - a prepared area, helping hand and well behaved, relaxed horse can go a long way to keeping you safe! Some training might also be required to accustom the horse to the camera, scale marker, background board and also the flash or hoof blocks if you are intending to use these!
Which views to document
The DP, lateral and solar view are the most important views and should be documented at every trim appointment (before and after the trim ideally) or as needed (for an online consult with us for example!). Try and take the picture about 3 feet or 1 metre away when taking DP or LM views and practice creating quality images as outlined below.
The dorsal-palmar (DP) view is featured below with the scale marker set beside the widest part of the hoof (or to be more precise at the COR or center of rotation of the coffin joint). Note: the camera lens is placed as close to the floor as possible and facing the center line of the hoof. You might also take additional views if the limb or hoof is twisted or rotated (for example, facing the center line of the cannon bone or pastern). You can include just the hoof and pastern (to the pastern joint) or document the whole limb.
Note the clean, level ground, clean hoof, the white board in the background, the scale marker (Metron) for calibration to take measurements, placed on the plane of interest (the COR in this view) and the marked/identified hoof! There is plenty of space around the hoof for additional mapping or measurements.
Ideally, the hoof can be placed on an imaging block (like in the example below). Note how straight the hoof wall at the toe is! This is because the camera is lower down and facing the bottom of the pedal bone, which is ideal but more difficult to achieve without a block. In this image, a scaled hoof imaging block by Metron Hoof is used which can also be used for accurate measurement of radiographic images of the hoof.
The lateral or lateral-medial (LM) view below shows the scale marker set in the middle or center line of the hoof, which is the plane of interest in this view. Capture at least the hoof and pastern to the pastern joint and ideally the bottom of the cannon bone. Your camera should face the COR/widest part of the hoof (about one third of the distance of the coronet band from front to back) and as close to the bottom of the pedal bone as possible (which is best achieved using a block). If you are using a phone camera, ensure the camera is as close to the ground as possible if you don't have a block and zoom in to avoid distortion. You can take additional images of the whole limb.
The sole view (below) is taken with the camera lens perpendicular to the sole. The scale marker is on the same plane as the ground bearing solar surface of the hoof which is the plane of interest in this view. Ensure hair isn't obscuring the heel bulbs!
The resting posture image (below) is taken from the side of the horse, several metres away, and with the lens perpendicular to the horse and facing the center of mass (approximately just behind the girth line and level with the point of shoulder). You can also document other areas of interest/relevance such as the shoulder or back from behind or above. I also like to document the horses teeth, areas of oedema (such as the sheath or udder area, the supra orbital fossa above the eye and swellings around tendons) fat pads, injuries, scars and the eye!
Examples of additional images (below)
Sorting, storing and using your images
Once your video and photos are taken, sort them into folders with the name of the horse and the date taken. We edit photos using ACDSee but there are many good image software programmes available ffor PC's or mobile devices. You should store them on your PC and/or cloud storage. We use Microsoft office but there are many online storage options such as Google or Dropbox for example. Make sure you can easily share images with your horses professional team, or if you are a HCP; with other professionals and with your client.
Taking successful radiographs
When radiographs are taken for diagnostics, there is a different procedure (the x-ray beam direction, plane of interest and exposure for example). We believe radiographs should be taken yearly for preventative, PRO-actice hoof care. If you or your HCP or vet have any concerns about hoof health, radiographs are absolutely invaluable - but only if taken properly and assessed appropriately!
If you are having radiographs taken for podiatry assessment, it is important you communicate this to the person doing the imaging so they can provide what you or your HCP needs for balance purpose.
Here we have summarised what is needed for basic podiatry radiographs:
A clean hoof! use a wire brush and clean the underside, wall and heel bulbs and clean out any separations and pockets for clarity
Stand the horse on level ground with cannon bones perpendicular (90 degrees) to the ground
The horse will need to stand on blocks such as the Metron blocks featured above. Both front or both hooves need to be on blocks at the same time and both bearing equal weight if possible. Sedation may be required.
Ensure the x-ray beam is level with the bottom of the pedal bone (which is ensured when using the correct blocks), perpendicular to the distal limb and completely parallel to the ground surface for accurate views
With any radiographs, a scale marker should be used for calibration purposes to provide measurements. We use Metron-Hoof blocks which are auto calibrated but you could use a wire on the middle of the dorsal wall (make sure you know the length of the wire for calibration purposes!). Make sure the scale markers are on the "plane of interest", eg centreline or widest part of the hoof.
Ensure a metal marker is placed on the centre line of the hoof at the hair line.hoof wall junction on LM views (this can double up as a scale marker for calibration). This is used to discern CE (coronet band/extensor process of the coffin bone) distance.
You may wish to use other markers such as a pin at the frog apex.
Be present so you can advocate for your horse and ensure they are taken properly and are useful to you or your HCP (show them this guide!)
Always take photographic images, of the same views, directly before or after radiographic imaging, so these can be used together for trimming and assessment afterwards.
The main views for podiatry/farriery assessment are:
DP view (also known as the AP radiograph):
2. The LM view also known as the Lateral radiograph (NOTE: THE DORSAL WALL HAIR LINE MARKER IS MISSING IN THIS IMAGE!):
You can see the Metron-Hoof blocks used here beneath the hoof - the software recognises the markers built into the blocks and auto-calibrates for quick, accurate measurements of the foot and hoof. With Metron-Hoof, we can produce images with the radiograph superimposed on the hoof image, like so:
Making sense of your hoof images
There are hoof measuring software programs and apps available to help you recognise healthy proportions and track changes. Our favourite programme for hoof carer professionals and vets is Metron-Hoof by Eponamind. Metron-Hoof is an image-based system using photographs and radiographs to keep track of the horse’s hoof. It generates hoof scores based on the 3 views (DP, L/M and sole) and allows for accurate and repeatable imaging and evaluation of both hooves and radiographs. For clients, we use Metron-Hoof during our Equine Podiatry consults and also offer stand alone Metron-Hoof imaging services for hooves which can also facilitate radiograph imaging and mark-ups.
Below are some examples of images marked up using Metron-Hoof.
Below is an example of a hoof score report created by Metron-Hoof:
Horse owners and some professionals might benefit from a hoof mapping app and our favourite is the HoofMapp. It is described as a "tool for quick, easy and cost effective assessment of the hoof, whether shod or barefoot. It is designed to give information about hoof proportions rather then exact measurements and is a fantastic method of documenting hoof morphology as you create files for each client".
Below are examples of images marked up using the HoofMapp app which is currently available (as of 20-9-21) only on ios (e.g. iphones). I used a freeze dried limb and flipped the image and mapped the hoof showing the bony column on the other side. Here I have demonstrated how accurate the app is at locating and mapping the centre of rotation (COR) of the coffin joint.
If you have taken photos and wish to learn how to map and measure these yourself, we offer educational days and mentorship opportunities which can be tailor made to your needs. If you are a vet, HCP or other professional and wish to learn more about how we can support you and your clients, we offer stand alone Metron-Hoof service to accompany the taking of radiographs and once images are provided, we can mark these up and provide reports if necessary.
Top tips for documenting like the experts!
Get expert help from those experienced in documenting, marking up and making best use of quality imaging. We offer in person and remote consults!
Use the best quality camera you can afford
Take time to properly prepare for documenting the hoof/horse and TAKE YOUR TIME
Practice, practice, practice - it helps create perfect practice!
Do not be afraid to advocate for your horse and ensure professionals are documenting properly - this includes your vet when taking radiographs!
Learn how to mark up and use the images to help your horse in the best way possible - contact us to learn how we can support you and look out for more educational and informational articles at www.holisticequine.co.uk on this topic!
We take an integrative and holistic approach to whole horse hoof and body health. We appreciate the relationship between body, limb and hoof and seek to address imbalances while positively influencing appropriate static and dynamic hoof balance and biomechanics.
If, like our clients, you want to learn a PRO-Active approach to hoof care and wish to prevent lameness